Bale, £85m and the inevitable decline of domestic football

So Gareth Bale has finally completed his transfer from Tottenham Hotspur to Real Madrid for a fee reported to be £85m (or – more sensationally – Eu100m). Bale himself will earn £300,000 a week. However you dress it up, these are obscenely high values – especially in an overall economic climate in Spain and the UK that is hardly buoyant (even if the latest data is more positive than has previously been the case). Of course, none of this is Bale’s fault – and the best of luck to him as he makes a move that (if managed prudently) will ensure that neither he nor his family will ever need to wory about financial security again. Nobody facing the same opportunity would turn their back on it

Tottenham have already spent most of the proceeds on summer signings that are designed to increase the overall depth and quality of their squad; replacing Bale is almost certainly impossible – his is a prodigious talent – but Spurs should now be in a position to compete more strongly for a coveted top four finish

The problem is that the overall effect of the transfer (and a number of others like it involving the best teams in England, Spain, Germany, France and Italy) will be to further concentrate talent and wealth into a smaller and smaller group of elite clubs. This is alright to a point, but it cannot be sustainable indefinitely. It is already relatively easy to predict that the premier football league competitions in those countries will be won (once again) by a pool of no more than a dozen or fifteen clubs this season (and in each of Germany, France and Spain, there are probably only two teams with realistic title ambitions). Of course, there will continue to be occasional upsets (such as Cardiff City’s defeat of Manchester City in the English Premiership recently) but these results gain such widespread coverage precisely because they are so rare. It’s difficult to see the attraction of a domestic league competition that is consistently weighted in favour of no more than 25% of the competitors

Even worse, if the English Premiership is anything to go by, even the teams who may be in a position to compete are now so similar in the way that they play, that they are simply cancelling each other out. (Matches between Manchester United and Chelsea, Arsenal and Tottenham, and Liverpool and Manchester United have produced the sum total of two goals between them). It’s football, but not as we know it

Football has traditionally adopted an completely laissez-faire approach to the management of the market for players. Rules to ensure financial fair play have been drawn up, but with more (and more expensive) lawyers and accountants at the disposal of the clubs than UEFA or FIFA can ever hope to be able to match, it is highly unlikely that the biggest and richest clubs will find it difficult to meet these, whilst at the same time ensuring that it is business as usual

The logical extension of the current concentration of wealth and talent in Europe will be the formal creation of a European Super League (replacing the de facto version that is now operating as the Champions’ League). The attraction to those in the elite is likely to become irresistible in the very near future; the impact on those clubs that remain in domestic competitions, meanwhile, is likely to be bloody

1 thought on “Bale, £85m and the inevitable decline of domestic football

  1. Pingback: Because he’s worth it? | better out than in

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s